Rondo shines in Celtics loss

Rondo shines in Celtics loss
December 25, 2011, 11:21 pm
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NEW YORK Whether it was the result of not having Paul Pierce (right heel), or motivation from the trade rumors involving Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo looked like a different kind of player for the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Fans are used to Rondo run the game well. But hitting jump shots? And free throws?

Where did that come from?

Rondo's play was one of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Boston, as the team dropped its season opener 106-104 to the New York Knicks.

"He attacked early. He set the tone, got into the paint and softened up their defense," said Allen. "That's a great sign for us."

Carmelo Anthony's late-game heroics aside, for most of Sunday's game Rondo was the best player on the floor.

And unlike the Rondo we've come to know, he didn't rely primarily on his ball distribution skills either.

He had a team-high 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Of his 11 made field goals, three of them were jumpers from 17 feet or further.

A 57 percent free throw shooter, Rondo also showed a greater willingness to get into the paint and draw contact.

In addition to knocking down 11 of his 19 shots from the field, Rondo also connected on 9 of 12 free throws.

To put that in perspective, the most free-throw attempts that Rondo recorded last season was 11 (he made 5) against the Knicks on April 24.

"I'm going to try and get to the line a lot more," said Rondo, who also had 13 assists and five steals. "Some calls went my way early on. I just have to stay aggressive."

Coach Doc Rivers isn't into moral victories, but he couldn't deny the impact Rondo had on the game -- and how that impact is a positive for the Celtics moving forward.

"We want him to be aggressive," Rivers said. "The best part of the game for us was that, I thought Rondo attacked the basket. This is the Rondo we want. This is what we talked about last year, getting to the free-throw line, taking the shots when they're open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game."

And with Pierce out indefinitely, the Celtics will need more of the same with the Miami Heat up next.

But don't think for a minute that Rondo is all of a sudden going to morph into a scoring point guard.

"It's just one game," he said. "Obviously, when Pierce gets back, some of the shots will go to P. But whatever the team needs me to do; if it's being aggressive or being a pass-first point guard like I am . . . Whatever the team needs, whatever Doc wants me to do."

It's clear that Rondo has the right mental approach to this season.

But what remains vague is whether the trade talk involving him this summer, is at the root of what appears to be a different Rondo.

"I tried to have a better focus, each game," he said. "It may not be me scoring every night like I scored tonight; just try to do the intangibles out there on the floor, whether it's loose balls, diving on the floor, getting my hands on deflections, whatever the team needs me to do."